Facing the cold: Laura Pin on the benefits of a balaclava

Laura Pin: Facing the cold

Item: Balaclava and fleece-lined pants.

Photos by David Keogh

Temperature on day of shoot:  A balmy -3 C

Coldest temperature ever ridden: This (past) year in December during the first cold-snap and snow storm. It was -35 C with the windchill, and even though I was only going a short distance, I arrived with numb hands despite giant lobster gloves.

Average km on winter commute: 5 km one way

Brrr! It's been a cold start to winter in Toronto, with lots of snow and ice, and frigid temperature dips. I've been cycling through this cold snap though, and having weather-appropriate gear definitely makes it more pleasant. Two of my must-have items are my balaclava and my fleece-lined pants. Both of these keep me warm, are inexpensive, and let me cycle in my regular clothes.

I find the balaclava extremely useful because the speed of the bicycle magnifies the wind chill - especially on the face - and numb lips, ears and noses are no fun. What I like about a balaclava is that it covers your forehead, ears and neck in one go, sealing in more heat than a hat and scarf combo. On warmer days, I can pull it back so that my whole face is visible. On colder days, I can pull up my balaclava so that everything except for my eyes is covered.  On really cold days, I add a wool hat and a pair of ski goggles so that everything is covered. Additional bonus of the ski goggles? The more eccentric you look, the more likely drivers are to pay attention to you.

The best material for a balaclava is a moisture-wicking one, like merino wool or some synthetics that minimize the condensation build up. Another way to avoid condensation is to choose a design that lets you easily alternate between covering and uncovering your mouth and nose.

I only recently discovered fleece-lined pants. Ordinary pants on the outside, extraordinary on the inside; such fuzziness and warmth! Fleece-lined pants come in jean and non-jean varieties and can be found at lots of stores. My favourite are a purple pair that were a thrift-store find.

Aside from the sheer pleasure of fleece against the skin, there are a few reasons why I like wearing fleece-lined pants during winter cycling. One is that they pass as street clothes, so I don't have to change when I arrive at my destination. Another is that they minimize the need to layer. In extreme cold, I can put a pair of long johns under them, or a pair of wind-proof pants over them. But because of the lining I can often get away with wearing them solo, which is nice because I find wearing long johns under ordinary jeans can be constricting, especially during a long day at work. Plus, taking long johns off in a washroom stall is always awkward. The only downside I've discovered to fleece-lined pants is that you can't wear them to a dance party because you will get too hot and end up dancing by yourself outside on the patio.
Winter 2014 homepage: read all nine here.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Introducing Ward 14 Cycle Toronto advocacy group

If you’d like to learn more about the Ward 14 Advocacy Group or come to a meeting, check out our website at http://cycleto.ca/ward/14 or email lauragracepin@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

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